Gems World Cup debut inspires Makunde to dream

0
153

Cape Town – Seeing Zimbabwe playing in their debut Netball World Cup in Liverpool ignited the desire for Nalani Makunde to want to represent the country someday.

This was the first time that the Southern region side tasted global competition.

In their first appearance, Zimbabwe finished in eighth overall position.

The Gems managed to qualify for a second successive World Cup after defeating Zambia in the third place match playoff at the 2022 Africa Netball qualifiers.

The goal shooter’s dream came true when she was named in the Gems squad for the 2023 edition of the Netball World Cup taking place in Cape Town.

Makunde is based in Australia where she plays for Capital Darters based in Canberra, in the Australian Netball Championship.

She also represents Brisbane South Wildcats in the Hart Sapphire Series in Queensland.

Born to an Australian mother and Zimbabwean father, Makunde accidentally started playing netball at her school but has since grown and is now representing the country of her birth on a global stage.

“I played a lot of sports at school just for fun and it kind of grew from that. The ACT coach used to say ‘you should come and trial for the State team,’ so I did and somehow I made the team and from there on I have been playing,” says Makunde.

“Until the 2019 World Cup and seeing that Zim had a team, I hadn’t considered it or hadn’t really thought about it. I never really thought I was good enough to play in the World Cup before that, until last year when I really started thinking that maybe this is a possibility.

“Looking into it and figuring out it could happen. I’m from Australia and to play in the World Cup in Australia you have to be a professional player in Super Netball. Those players are super competitive and so good. So, you don’t really think of yourself in the same space,” she explains.

Nalani Makunde made her Gems debut against her country of birth Australia

Ironically, Makunde made her national debut against the country she is based in, Australia.

The Diamonds defeated the 16th ranked team 86-30 in the opening match of the tournament.

Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom are the only countries where the sport is professional.

This has helped the top three countries, Diamonds, Silver Ferns and the English Roses stay on top in the world rankings.

TOUGH CAMPAIGN

Makunde, who plays in the HCF State League for Canberra Netball Association, was named the 2021 Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the Netball ACT’s premier competition.

Although she would like to play in the more competitive Suncorp Super Netball League, she understands that getting a team is quite hard because of the kind of players in that league.

“As a player, you always want to be playing in the best competitions you possibly can, that would be awesome if I could. But I understand it is super competitive and there are only eight teams and there are only three shooting positions in each team. It’s very tough to even get a contract,” she says.

Makunde in action during Zimbabwe’s win against Sri Lanka

When Makunde travelled to Zimbabwe to join the Gems squad ahead of the training camp, she brought with her a bag full of netball equipment that included balls, bibs, and kits.

It was her first time that she had gone to the country when she meet up with the team for the pretournament camp before the team made its way to South Africa where they played a couple of friendly matches before the World Cup started.

This was a move for her to give back to her country in the hope of helping the sport grows.

“I think it’s important, especially as female athletes. Everyone, globally, knows the struggle. We don’t have as much money, we don’t have as much funding. I think any little thing you can do helps with all sports and particularly women’s sports,” she says.

Zimbabwe have had a tough campaign in the 2023 edition, not managing to register a win in the first round of group stages.

However, they were able to get one over Sri Lanka in the second preliminary group stages.

They are playing for the 13th place playoff in the remainder of the tournament.

In their debut appearance, they won three of their games throughout the competition to take eighth place.

Makunde says their campaign has been painfully disappointing but is hopeful for a better finish.

“We have been pretty disappointed with how we have come away from games. It’s hard to kind of sum it up right now but we’re feeling pretty disappointed,” she concludes.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here